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Yes - Fragile CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.45 | 3431 ratings

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4 stars Featuring four "main" songs and five songs which Wikipedia describes as being showcases for the talents of the individuals of the band, Fragile is one of Yes' most scattershot albums, yet unlike many prog albums that don't have a central tone or engine to fall back on in terms of the sound of the album, this variety and creative whimsy is a large part of the album's charm.

The five individual showcase songs range from phenomenal to boring to simply ridiculous. "We Have Heaven" is an excellent showcase of Jon Anderson's jaw-dropping range, sounding positively angelic at points. It's a warm, blissful little tune that could easily be twice the length. "Cans and Brahms" is a silly throwaway that sounds like it was filtered through a Sega Genesis sound card, an unfortunate but all too common affect of '70s keyboards. Likewise, "5 Percent For Nothing" serves no discernible purpose and the unchanging nature of "The Fish" proves to be a rather dull listen. Thankfully, "Mood For a Day" justifies the entire experiment by itself with its subtly brilliant flamenco playing and low-key, sensuous nature. It's more or less the sonic equivalent of waking up to a warm, bright sun after a good night's sleep and is one of Yes' finest instrumentals.

The four songs that make up the core of the album prove to be more consistent. I'm completely tired of "Roundabout", but that doesn't take away from the fact that on its own terms it's a rousing piece of music, regardless of how many times I've heard it. Speaking of exhilarating, "South Side of the Sky" is an exhilarating number and probably the album's best song. It's up there with "Yours Is No Disgrace" as being Yes' best "adventure" song, and proves to be a better song than the one mentioned on the whole, featuring some of Howe's most interesting, thrilling guitar playing and vocals that'll make you want to grab a cutlass and swing from a rope. Even the soft interlude that takes up the middle of the song isn't unwelcome, as such a thing would be in many other songs, as it proves to be a respite from the eye of the storm and a compelling piece of music in its own right.

"Long-Distance Runaround" serves as an entertaining pop tune, while "Heart of the Sunrise" is where Yes really gets to stretch their epic-prog legs and build the blueprint for the sprawling tales that would come later. The first half is touch and go-starts off strong, takes a break that lasts a little too long, then picks back up at a jarring rate-but once you get into the second half the song begins to connect, with Bruford's soft jazz drumming propelling Howe and Wakeman's keyboard and guitar interplay to elevate Jon Anderson's vocals to truly grand, moving proportions. It's always tough to end a song like this, but the climax before the "We Have Heaven" reprise is truly inspiring as it reaches an emotional fever pitch that many prog songs would try and fail to emulate for years to come.

Fragile isn't Yes' best album and it could have been improved in places, but it's a wonderful introduction to the band and for the most part, it stands the test of time as one of progressive rock's most enduring works.

40footwolf | 4/5 |


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